Exactly what is it that dogs have that is lacking in humans? Well, a dog’s nose comes with 220 million cells that pick up odours than a mere 5 million in humans. And even though none have yet graduated from The Harvard Medical School, they can often outsmart doctors in spotting serious disease.
In 1989 the British Journal, Lancet, revealed that a female half-Border Collie was indeed a woman’s best friend. Her dog kept sniffing at a mole on her thigh, yet dismissed other moles. In fact, the dog had attempted to bite off the mole when she was wearing shorts. The woman consulted her doctor, the mole was excised and the diagnosis revealed a cancerous melanoma.
Since 1989 increasing evidence suggests dogs can distinguish between normal skin cells andcancerous ones. It has been noted for many years that tumours produce small quantities of alkanes and benzene derivatives that aren’t found in healthy tissue. And that dogs can identify odors in parts per billion.
Dr. Larry Meyers, Associate Professor at the Auburn College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Alabama, has examined the smelling abilities of more than 4,000 dogs for 20 years.
Meyers states that there is a mythology about bloodhounds finding criminals.He has studied miniature poodles. that he claims they could give bloodhounds a “run for their money”. Even amongst the same breed, there’s variation in sensitivity to smell. He adds that a dog’s sense of smell is extremely sensitive it can easily detect either a single chemical or even a combination of them.
In a study, tissue samples of melanomas were extracted from 2 research centers. A Schnauzer dog was then taught to locate a particular test tube containing malignant tissue. He then was trained to look for a melanoma sample placed in one of 10 holes. The dog was right 99% of the time.
Now how do doctors rate in diagnosing malignant melanoma? Research revealed that dermatologists, surgeons and plastic surgeons were right only 66% of the time! Isn’t it better to be diagnosed by a properly trained dog than a Harvard graduate. A 1% error is far more appealing than a 34% one. Specially when a missed prognosis could kill .
If a dog can detect melanoma, why not other kinds of cancers? Research published in the Journal Integrative Cancer Therapies suggests that a dog’s exceptional scenting power can distinguish between patients who have early and late stage lung and breast cancers.
Read: Why Are Dog Noses Wet?
The research was conducted by Dr. Michael McCulloch of the Pine Street Foundation in San Anselmo, California and Tadeusz Jeziersk of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Genetics and Animal Breeding.
Five Labrador dogs and 2 Portuguese Water dogs were borrowed from owners of guide dogs for the blind. It demanded only 3 weeks of training for them to be able to diagnose lung and breast cancer.
The dogs were taught in the same way as they are to detect bombs. Researchers collected breath samples in plastic tubes from 55 patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer, from 33 patients having breast malignancy and from 83 volunteers who were free from cancer.
The dogs selected the cancers by lying down in front of the test station. They were right 99% of the time and given rewards for pinpointing the cancer.
This precision is incredible considering that current techniques of diagnosis don’t compare to matching it. What’s more, dogs provide another major asset. They don’t expose patients to radiation to make diagnosis.
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